Notes on Expletive There

Richard S. Kayne

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Sentences with the verb exist and with a lexical DP in subject position show no definiteness effect. This suggests that the definiteness effect is keyed in English to the presence of expletive there. More strongly put, a definiteness effect is invariably found whenever expletive there (or a counterpart of it in other languages, whether pronounced or not) is present. This effect may in some languages be limited to the case of unstressed pronouns. Expletive there and its counterparts originate within the associate (in a way that accounts for the expletive being there, and not then). In part, this conclusion is driven by anti-homophony. Freeze noted that English is exceptional in having expletive there in subject position. The proposal will be that this is related to English allowing preposition-stranding under A-movement. The definiteness effect itself results from a blocking effect, probably not specific to existential sentences, that certain determiners such as the impose on the movement of expletive there from its DP-internal position up to a sentential subject position.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)209-230
    Number of pages22
    JournalLinguistic Review
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


    • anti-homophony
    • definiteness effect
    • expletive
    • preposition-stranding
    • there

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Language and Linguistics
    • Linguistics and Language


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